Freelance writers: do you want your time to be more productive, exciting, and hassle-free?
Here are the 9 best tools to make that happen.
Ready, set, go!
1. Website platforms
Not all freelance writers get their website off the ground before they start taking jobs. Some will dive right in and worry about their site or portfolio later. If you’re a former journo, your portfolio is basically Google (just type in your name and the publication you’ve worked for). But it really helps to have a well-designed, easy to navigate website that clearly highlights what sort of topics you cover with examples of your work and how people can contact you.
Squarespace is a great platform for beautiful websites, it costs a bit per year, but the templates are stunning and their CMS is easy to get your head around. Wordpress is about half the price of Squarespace (for the premium option) per year, but it can take more time to set up and get the look and feel you’re after.
2. Finding jobs
You’ve made your website, created your portfolio… And now you find yourself tapping your pen on your desk, eagerly awaiting the arrival of new work.
If you’re starting out, much of your time spent working will actually be spent pitching. If you don’t have any existing contacts to leverage, you’ll have to pitch smart and take the time to make that first email to the editor or CEO stand out from others.
If you’re more inclined to hunt down job adverts, try weworkremotely.com or sign up to Upwork (both are free if you’re looking for work). Another great tip is to look at job boards such as Seek or the government jsite, search for marketing and comms manager jobs and see if their job description includes dealing with freelancers. Email the organisation a few weeks or months after the ad closes and ask if they’re looking for freelance writers to work with. It’s worth a shot!
3. Time tracking
You’ve probably heard this many times before: time is money. Especially when you’re freelancing and charging by the hour.
Clockify is a free tool you can use to track your time. There’s a Chrome extension for it too, so you can add it to your browser (it’ll show up top right). It works across most pages, from Gmail to Google Docs. Just click on the icon and start tracking (click again to stop tracking - don’t forget to turn it off!). It’s also a great way to manage your time and see where you’re spending most of your hours each week.
4. Writing/note keeping
Google Docs does the trick 99% of the time when it comes to article writing and sharing, but for some projects, it might be helpful to have a more extensive piece of software at hand.
Scrivener is a word processor designed for authors. It’s a paid software tool you can use to map out and write in-depth articles, investigative pieces, journal papers or books. It has a free 30-day trial, which is 30 actual days of use, so if you’re only opening and using Scrivener twice a week, you’ll have the free trial for 15 weeks.
Evernote is another free tool, particularly good for keeping track of your notes.
5. Grammar and spell check
I’m not sure how many of us survived before Grammarly. It’s a free spell checker that works across browsers and it’s pretty accurate. I say pretty accurate because it’s been having a little bit of a fit lately, sometimes giving suggestions that don’t make sense. But it’s still better than nothing. You can set it to spell check in British English for one document, changing it to American English for another if you’re working with clients in different countries, which is a helpful functionality.
6. Free (stock) images
Unsplash is a great free resource for freely-usable images. They have a ton of high-resolution, stunning (stock) images in their database, and they’re easily findable by typing in keywords in the search bar.
7. Interview planning
As soon as you’re getting in the groove of freelance writing, and you’re starting to get more gigs every month, planning them in properly is crucial. You obviously don’t want to double book a meeting or an interview, so having some sort of schedule is essential.
Google calendar is frequently used across industries, and it integrates with different software applications (such as Zoom) so it’s easy to sync meetings with others.
Calendly is a great free online appointment planning tool which you can embed on your site to make it easier for clients to book appointments with you.
8. Transcription service
Raise your hand if you detest having to transcribe interviews. Yes? Same here! It helps if you know shorthand, or if you’re great at taking notes during an interview. Transcribing interviews is a crucial and important part of being a writer, but it zaps time and energy. As a rough estimate, transcribing takes twice as long as the interview. So if you interviewed for 30 minutes, transcribing it will take you about an hour. There are AI-powered transcription services out there that you can use, but most of them aren’t very accurate at all. We all know how important it is to get those quotes right!
Videoconferencing tool Zoom has a built-in, paid transcription service. It’s the most accurate one I’ve come across out of AI-powered options.
Rev is a human-powered transcription service, where actual people are doing the transcription work. It costs USD$1.25 a minute of audio, they claim 99% accuracy and you’ll receive your transcript in 12 hours.
9. Invoicing, Payment & Tax
The Hnry team handle it all for you - no more data entry, no more reconciliation and no more spreadsheets. When you say goodbye to your accountant, take the leap and sign up to Hnry. You get all your taxes (income tax, GST and ACC/Medicare) paid and filed, all your business and home income expenses reviewed and you get great software for invoicing, quoting and personal financial management. The fee is 1% of your self-employed income, and you pay as you go (and only while you’re earning). Which leaves more time for you to do what you’re good at: writing!
Wrapping it up
Whether you’re starting out as a freelance writer, or you’ve got a few years under your belt already, the resources and tools above will hopefully help make your work a little easier.
We’ve got more guides, tips and tricks on freelancing (and tax) on our blog and great interviews and articles on The Leap.